CaliforniaAsbestosLaw follows the news on asbestos, especially state and federal legislation in the area of asbestos safety and health. Check this section for recent asbestos news.
EPA Fails to Inform Public about Current Asbestos Dangers
Many public health experts, including some within the Environmental Protection Agency itself, are accusing the organization of failing to take proper action and warn the public about the current dangers posed by Zonolite, a popular asbestos-based material used in insulation and other commercial applications. Scientists have known for years that vermiculite asbestos-filled Zonolite is extremely dangerous, but it is strange the EPA is reluctant to address the situation given that the deadly material is still found in untold thousands of buildings throughout the United States.
Who Gets Mesothelioma - Your Genes Play a Part
Some mesothelioma researchers are proposing a genetic component to this aggressive cancer long associated with asbestos. At the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation's 2010 International Symposium, Jill Ohar MD of Wake Forest School of Medicine reported on research that supported the possibility that people who develop mesothelioma may have a genetic susceptibility.
Between 1940 and 1980, asbestos was an extremely common material in American industry, used in shipbuilding, aircraft fabrication, plumbing, insulation, railroad and automotive brakes and clutches, ceiling tile, floor tile, drywall, fireproofing materials, cement, and literally hundreds of other uses. An estimated 40 per cent of the US workforce, about 27 million Americans , was exposed in their workplaces to asbestos. The large majority of those exposed have not developed mesothelioma. The number of new mesothelioma cases identified each year has stayed constant at about 3000 per year.
Carbon Nanotubes: The 21st Century Asbestos?
Several recent studies have shown that some carbon nanotubes, microscopically small carbon structures, are about the size and shape (long and thin) of asbestos fibers, and have the same effects on tissue that asbestos fibers do. A study in mice found the pathological changes that lead to mesothelioma in abdominal cells which had been injected with nanotubes. The cells damaged by carbon nanotubes resembled those damaged by asbestos.
Carbon nanotubes are a new material that is moving rapidly from the lab to applications in electronics, energy-efficient batteries, drugs, and other high-tech manufacturing. Researchers in the field have raised questions about their safety if they are inhaled, and have called for more studies to learn more about their effects when inhaled, and to determine safe levels of exposure and means of protecting workers.
Asbestos Fibers Implicated in More Cancers
A recent report by the World Health Organization' International Agency Research on Cancer, IARC, found that in addition to mesothelioma and lung cancer, asbestos is responsible for other cancers. There is now sufficient evidence to establish that asbestos can cause cancers of the larynx, and ovarian cancer.
Minnesota School of Public Health reports on 5-year study of mesothelioma among iron miners.
Researchers from the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health are studying the health effects of taconite dust on iron mine workers in the Mesabi Range. Taconite is the principal type of iron ore now mined in the Mesabi Range in large open pit mines. Drilling, blasting, and hauling the ore exposes mine workers and local residents to enormous quantities of ore dust. The taconite ore is hauled to Two Harbors, MN, where it is ground and formed into small pellets for shipping. This process also creates vast amounts of dust, to which local residents are exposed.
Fifty-eight miners have died of mesothelioma, and taconite dust is suspected as a major contributor to deaths from this slow-growing, invariably fatal cancer. Physicians and epidemiologists at the School of Public Health will study the respiratory of health 1200 current and former mine workers, and 800 spouses. They hope to learn about levels of exposure, and to determine correlations between exposure level and development of disease.
A related study will sample air quality in the region, both when the mines are operating, and when they are shut down.
Mesothelioma epidemic expected
Libby, Montana can expect an epidemic of mesothelioma in the next 10 to 20 years, according to Dr Alan Whitehouse, a pulmonologist who works intensively in asbestos disease. Writing in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Dr Whitehouse reported that workers and other residents exposed to asbestos at the WR Grace vermiculite mine will develop the disease in the next two decades. Mesothelioma is a slow-growing cancer, often showing up as long as 30-40 years after exposure. Exposure for as little as one or two months can lead to the development of mesothelioma 30-40 years later. The vermiculite mine shut down in 1990, but area residents and transient workers had been exposed for decades before then.
“The extent of the epidemic of environmental mesothelioma due to exposures based at Libby will probably not peak for another 10 to 20 years,” Whitehouse wrote. “This is a public health problem of considerable magnitude and points to the need for surveillance and early detection of the disease.”
Early detection offers patients wider option for treatment, and often for a longer life expectancy from this aggressive cancer.
EPA’s own scientific advisors reject plan to weaken asbestos standards
The EPA’s own scientific advisory panel told the agency it shouldn’t change how it determines health risks to workers from exposure to asbestos. In July of this year, the EPA held hearings on its proposal to change how it would evaluate the hazard of chrysotile, the commonest form of asbestos, at Superfund sites. The proposed changes, made in response to industries which still manufacture or use asbestos, and driven by White House pressure, would have ignored decades of solid epidemiological studies documenting the toxicity of chrysotile.
Leading asbestos scientists, public health experts, physicians who treat mesothelioma, and asbestos victim’s advocates testified at the July hearings against the agency’s plan to change how it estimates potential cancer risk for those who have inhaled microscopic asbestos fibers.
On August 8, the agency’s Scientific Advisory Board issued its report. The panel of 20 scientists agreed that there are differences in toxicity among the six forms of asbestos, but said the EPA’s data were weak, and did not provide justification for changing the current standards.
The report dealt a significant loss to the industries that had pushed for the change as a defensive tool in the thousands of asbestos injury cases they still face.
Asbestos on the beach
The Chicago Sun Times reported that eleven years after its investigative team had identified asbestos fibers in the sand at the Illinois State Beach near Chicago, the federal EPA had not yet determined whether the fibers presented a health hazard to beach-goers.
The Illinois State Beach is a large state park, with 61/2 miles of Lake Michigan lakefront running from the Wisconsin state line down to Waukegan, a suburb of Chicago. Two million people visit the park every summer, sitting on the sand, handling the sand when they build sand castles, kicking up the sand and dispersing asbestos fibers into the air when they run, or play volleyball, or chase Frisbees.
One source of the asbestos is a Johns-Manville asbestos plant, now closed, just south of the park.
The asbestos found includes amphibole fibers, one of the most dangerous kinds of asbestos. Nonetheless, state and federal officials have insisted that the beach is safe. The EPA’s internal documents tell a different story. In 2006, the agency’s own study found significantly elevated levels of asbestos at the beach.
Travel Grant Program For Mesothelioma Patients
The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) announced the Mary and Bob Cosentino Travel Grant Program to help newly-diagnosed patients consult with an expert on this very grave asbestos-related cancer.
Research to understand mesothelioma and to develop effective treatments has occurred chiefly at the handful of university medical centers that specialize in mesothelioma. "Mesothelioma patients and their families typically face huge financial losses," explained Chris Hahn, Executive Director of The Meso Foundation. "They lose employment income due to disability and the need for the caregiver to stay at home with the patient. The available treatments often are not covered by medical insurance, and even getting to those treatments is expensive because many patients do not live near medical centers with mesothelioma expertise, and travel and lodging can be costly."
Mary Cosentino served on the Board of Directors of the Meso Foundation, and she and her husband Bob have been long time supporters of The Meso Foundation. Mary passed away last month last month, on January 26, from peritoneal mesothelioma, more than five years after she was diagnosed. Mary sought and benefitted from several clinical trials and experimental protocols offered by specialists across the country. The travel grant is an effort to see that other mesothelioma patients, especially those newly diagnosed, have access to the treatment that could make a difference. See the full story on the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation website.
Asbestos-related cancers now eligible for Department of Defense research funds.
The defense appropriation bill of November 2007 includes asbestos-related cancers as eligible targets for research. Mesothelioma researchers may submit grant proposals for DoD's 2008 grant cycle. This inclusion is the result of 15 years of advocacy by the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation.
The DoD's commitment to research is appropriate, because there is a long history of asbestos exposure in military service, and a significant elevated risk of mesothelioma among active military and veterans. In fact, approximately one third of mesothelioma cases have been shown to involve Navy and/or shipyard exposures. Given the long latency of the disease, even if exposures are reduced, mesothelioma will continue to affect the veteran and military population for decades to come.
The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) has awarded an additional $1 million to cancer researchers at leading national universities and medical centers for research focused on a cure for mesothelioma.
To spur the research critically needed to develop treatments for this asbestos-related cancer, the Meso Foundation annually funds research projects from around the world through its competitive grant process. The Foundation has awarded over $5 million to develop better treatment options for mesothelioma sufferers.
Federal rules drafted for notification of major asbestos cleanups.
The Times of Trenton NJ documents the EPA's failure to notify residents or local government of a major asbestos cleanup, and a US congressman takes action.
A Breath of Fresh Air From Washington: Senate Passes Historic Asbestos Ban.
Press release from the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation.
"The Legacy of World Trade Center Dust"
in the New England Journal of Medicine. Two public health researchers review what is known about the toxic contents of the dust caused by the World Trade Center attacks, including asbestos. They anticipate the development of many cancers among the population that worked at Ground Zero or lived near the sit.